Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Skagit County’s popular drive-through COVID testing site to limit service to locals

Nurses conduct a COVID-19 test at UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic in March. Skagit County will soon limit its own drive-through testing.
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX (file)
Nurses conduct a COVID-19 test at UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic in March. Skagit County will soon limit its own drive-through testing.

Skagit County soon will limit its drive-through testing for COVID-19 to only those who live or work in the county. The change starts in less than a week, on Monday, Aug. 31. County officials say the current model is not sustainable.

The drive-through testing site at Skagit Valley College was one of the first, when it opened in April. It’s one of the most convenient options around. It’s free. And anyone can use it, even if you don’t have symptoms. 

“No appointment necessary, you just drive up between 9 and 4 o' clock, five days a week,”  said Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen, who also chairs the local board of commissioners. He says the drive-through test site seems to be especially popular among people whose employers require regular tests.

But the facility costs about $60,000 per week to operate. On some days, Wesen says as many as 600 people have showed up, requiring longer hours from employees and volunteers. And when authorities checked the data, they found that, over the past three months, about half of those using it — 45 percent — didn't live in Skagit County. Roughly 22 percent came from Whatcom County.

“We reached out to our neighboring counties and asked, you know, since it obviously is being used as a regional site, would you be willing to contribute some money? We didn’t hear back from any of the other counties,” Wesen said. “So that’s why we’re taking the steps we’re taking.”   

He says with the pandemic dragging on, the county needs to conserve federal CARES Act and COVID funding. A new screening station will now verify that patrons either live or work in Skagit County. If not, they'll be encouraged to call their own county health department.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.